ne·​crop·​o·​lis nə-ˈkrä-pə-ləs How to pronounce necropolis (audio)
plural necropolises or necropoles nə-ˈkrä-pə-ˌlēz How to pronounce necropolis (audio)
or necropoleis nə-ˈkrä-pə-ˌlās How to pronounce necropolis (audio)
or necropoli nə-ˈkrä-pə-ˌlī How to pronounce necropolis (audio)
: cemetery
especially : a large elaborate cemetery of an ancient city

Did you know?

With its -polis ending, meaning "city", a necropolis is a "city of the dead". Most of the famous necropolises of Egypt line the Nile River across from their cities. In ancient Greece and Rome, a necropolis would often line the road leading out of a city; in the 1940s a great Roman necropolis was discovered under the Vatican's St. Peter's Basilica. Some more recent cemeteries especially deserve the name necropolis because they resemble cities of aboveground tombs, a necessity in low-lying areas such as New Orleans where a high water table prevents underground burial.

Examples of necropolis in a Sentence

Archaeologists uncovered a necropolis of ancient Rome. an ancient necropolis that has given archaeologists valuable insights into how people once lived and died
Recent Examples on the Web Dahshur is the southernmost of the great pyramid necropolises of the Old Kingdom in the vicinity of the ancient capital of Memphis. Lianne Kolirin, CNN, 25 Mar. 2024 About 16 miles south of the Pyramids of Giza, this is the necropolis of the ancient city of Memphis and Egypt’s largest archaeological site. Nada El Sawy, Condé Nast Traveler, 21 Nov. 2023 Toward the end of the Middle Ages, placing padlocks in graves became something of a tradition in Central Europe, particularly in Poland, where lock-and-key assemblages have been found in the graves of about three dozen necropolises for Ashkenazi Jews. Franz Lidz, New York Times, 5 Sep. 2023 Lychakiv cemetery, the 18th century necropolis on the city’s outskirts, reflects that layering of history, filled with the dead of every era. Laura King, Los Angeles Times, 26 June 2023 The site held a necropolis from the seventh to 10th centuries and a fortress in the 13th century. Jamie Quatro, Travel + Leisure, 24 June 2023 Recently, archaeologists excavated an unusual set of talismanic nails from a mountaintop necropolis on the outskirts of Sagalassos in southwestern Turkey. Franz Lidz, New York Times, 25 Mar. 2023 In the middle of the desolate Taklamakan Desert, on the far western edge of China and surrounded by forbidding mountains, a necropolis descends for five levels into the sands. Nathaniel Scharping, Discover Magazine, 6 Feb. 2017 Around 2,500 years old, the 31 jars were discovered in an embalming workshop in the famed necropolis of Saqqara, near Cairo. Gabrielle Nolin, NBC News, 2 Feb. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'necropolis.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


borrowed from Late Latin, "cemetery," borrowed from Greek Nekrópolis, literally, "city of the dead," name of a large cemetery in a suburb of ancient Alexandria, from nekro- necro- + -polis -polis

First Known Use

1819, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of necropolis was in 1819

Dictionary Entries Near necropolis

Cite this Entry

“Necropolis.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Apr. 2024.

More from Merriam-Webster on necropolis

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!